Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Book Title: The Fill-In Boyfriend
Author: Kasie West
Published Date: May 5th, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend— two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party — three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

Disclaimer: I won this book in a giveaway.

Legitimate question: How does Kasie West do this?

I mean, this is her 3rd contemporary novel and she just has this ability to create swoony boys and put them together with imperfect girls. God, her formula is awesome. The Distance Between Us is still my favorite Kasie West contemporary, but The Fill-In Boyfriend is fighting for 2nd place alongside On The Fence.

We meet Gia just as she’s getting dumped on prom night by her boyfriend, Bradley. That was rough to read. High school can be a cruel place, especially if you attend a promo solo. For Gia, the idea of attending prom on her own is not something she wants to face. Not when Jules, her frenemy, has doubted the existence of Bradley since the beginning. The last thing Gia wants is to be seen as a liar.

On a whim, she asks a guy who just dropped his sister off, to be her date to prom. She wants him to pretend to be Bradley, and after a little bit of bantering, he agrees. The night ends a little rocky, and Gia doubts that she’ll ever see Fill-In Bradley again.

Until it’s revealed that she’s been sitting behind his sister in one of her classes all year.

Now it’s time for Fill-In Bradley to pass Gia off as his girlfriend at a party that his ex will be at. Fill-In Bradley is clearly still in love with his ex, and is willing to do whatever he has to do in order to get her to come back to him. His sister is all for this plan although she intensely dislikes her brother’s ex.

More craziness ensues at the party, but my favorite part was seeing the sparks increase between Fill-In Bradley and Gia. I could feel the chemistry between them, I felt like I could root for them as a couple. That, right there is an awesome feeling. 

I loved the romance between Gia & Fill-In Bradley. It worked for me because there were things that balanced each of them out. When things went sour between Fill-In Bradley and his ex, his self-esteem took a nosedive. Gia helped his confidence. Gia started off the book a bit uptight and rigid, but Fill-In Bradley helped relax her.

I loved Gia’s character arc. At the beginning of the book she is so obsessed with doing everything perfect, being friends with the right people, never showing her true emotions, but as the book unfolds, Gia starts to crack, she starts becoming more flawed, she starts expressing her true emotions, especially around her family.

On the surface, her family seems normal, loving and supportive of each other, but as the book continues on, we realize that Gia doesn’t really share anything with her parents, and her mom especially, keeps her emotions bottled up, just like Gia does. I did love her dad though. Her dad was awesome and protective.

“I hate boys.”
“He didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“No, well, he just hurt my heart.”
“Oh honey, I’m so sorry.”

This book explored the complexities of sibling relationships as well. I spent most of the book detesting the hell out of Gia’s brother Drew. He just seemed like such a jackass and most of the time, the things he would say would enrage me. Things between Drew & Gia were complicated, but I liked how it ended.

Friendships in your teen years are difficult as well. For Gia, her friendships with Claire, Laney and Jules were difficult. I truly think that Jules was awful, but that she was also the Alpha. Claire & Laney were the Betas. I also feel like Gia was never her true self around these girls. Like she had to behave a certain way for these girls to even tolerate her. The exploration of teenage friendships was truly great.

I really enjoyed this book, and it was everything I’ve come to expect from a Kasie West book. I am giving this book 4.5 stars. I’m not actually sure why I cannot give it the full 5 stars, but I definitely recommend it very highly for contemporary lovers.

“We’re not perfect and we don’t have to be.”

Review: Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

Book Title: Breathe, Annie, Breathe
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Published Date: July 15th, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA/NA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

Disclaimer: Library book.

I had a lot of hope for this book. I had heard awesome things about it and it was going to be my first Miranda Kenneally book, so I was definitely feeling apprehensive. What if I didn’t like it? What if it didn’t wow me like I wanted it to? I’m so glad I can answer this positively. It was an awesome book where I very quickly fell in love with Annie and with Jeremiah.

I loved how Jeremiah didn’t push her, he let things unfold at her pace and he didn’t try to rush her. He reminded me of my fiance in that way. He knew Annie was still grieving for the boy she loved before.

Yet he introduced her to his family along the way. Guys don’t do that unless they are seriously interested in a girl. He even took her to meet his grandfather who was living in an old folks home. Jeremiah had a close relationship with his PopPop, allowing them to joke around.

“Stop hitting on her PopPop. She’s not your type.” -Jeremiah-
“And what is her type?” -PopPop-
“Somebody under seventy.” -Jeremiah-

I loved the rest of Jeremiah’s family. They all seemed very close knit, and his mother especially seemed overly concerned. I understood why she was so anxious about her adrenaline seeking son, but as someone who is very much an adrenaline junkie, I totally sympathized with Jeremiah. I understood the feeling of wanting that rush, but not wanting to hurt or even scare my family.

Annie’s family was interesting. It was just her mom, Annie, and Annie’s brother Nick. Annie lives her life with constant thoughts of what if. She constantly blames herself for Kyle’s death although as we find out, no one is to blame. She even goes as far as to blame her mother for Kyle’s death. Of course she regrets saying that. 

Her mom never really felt things with Kyle were all that healthy. When Annie began dating Kyle, she dropped everything. Her friends, her activities, things she did for herself. If Kyle wasn’t a part of something, Annie didn’t want to participate. 

“A guy should fit into your life, Annie, not become it.” -Annie’s mom-

I totally agreed with her mom on this. A guy should never be your whole life. He should never become the only thing you think about or hang out with. A guy should compliment you, not complete you. 

Kyle was also the reason she lost friends. Kelsey in particular was hurt when Annie began dating Kyle and I totally understood. To Kelsey, it felt like Annie had left her behind in favor of a boy. While I understood Annie a little bit, I was also so angry with her. Boys should never come before friends and I was so annoyed that Annie had allowed that to happen.

I loved the ending, it was awesome and it left me incredibly happy. It felt like I was Annie for so many reasons. We were both afraid to move on, and love someone no matter how caring and supportive and patient they were. I absolutely loved this book and I cannot wait to read more of Kenneally’s books. 5 stars to this awesome book that broke me out of my reading slump.

“If you don’t put yourself out there, if you don’t take risks, you can’t truly feel.”

Review: Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

Book Title: Falling Into Place
Author: Amy Zhang
Publish Date: September 9th, 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre: YA/Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Pre-Order Links: AmazonBarnes & Noble
Synopsis from Goodreads:
On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road. 

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.

Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from Greenwillow Books via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

Okay, let’s see if I can get my thoughts all written down before I start crying. Holy cow, this was such a powerful book. Emotional punches were packed tightly within this book so it was akin to a roller coaster, albeit, an emotional one. Knowing a teenager wrote this, seriously makes me feel like a big fat slacker.

I cannot say enough amazing things about the prose. Oh my goodness, it was beautifully written. It was emotional, it was easy to relate to and it was written in a way that would ordinarily confuse the heck outta me. But this time, I wasn’t confused. I was too drawn in to be confused by the fact that the timeline of the book wasn’t straightforward. There were flashbacks and a lot of jumping around to different parts of the story.

Sometimes when the writing is really beautiful, character development suffers. Happily, that was not the case with this book. Liz, her mom, her friends and even the boy she bullied, were all well rounded, complex characters which was another thing that I loved. No, the characters as a whole were not likable characters, but each of them had their own redeeming moments.

This book also had some tough subjects attached to it. Rape, Suicide, bullying, teen pregnancy, drug & alcohol use. These subjects were weaved into the story well which was great to see as often it feels as if the author has bit off more than she can chew. Clearly, that was not the case with this author.

Books like this tend to be on the preachy side, but thankfully this one was not. It did make me think a lot about my own life and what it means to be a friend, to love someone. Life is complicated, messy and like this book, it rarely goes in a linear fashion. I absolutely adored this book and I cannot wait to get my hands on a finished copy of it. 5 stars to this beautifully written book about life and the choices we make every single day.

Friendships In Your 20’s

Making friends in adulthood is so much harder than I ever expected it to be. I didn’t expect to suddenly lose friends the minute we were all legal. I was under the impression that our friendships were stronger than that. I was under the impression that friendships could withstand new relationships, engagements, marriages and even babies.

Apparently I was wrong. Apparently friendships are always changing, and changing significantly when people begin a new stage of life. I’ve struggled to maintain friendships as the years have gone past. I’ve tried and tried to hang on to a friendship, only to realize that it’s just not working for various reasons. Maybe we’ve outgrown each other, maybe we are too different, or maybe, we were never really friends at all.

I was also under the impression that if someone means something to you, you will take the time to check in on them. Especially if you know things aren’t good at home. I’ve always tried to stay connected and check in on people. Particularly if I haven’t heard anything for awhile. That leads me to a different point, I don’t buy this “Sorry I’m too busy” bullshit If someone is important to you, you’ll make the time to talk to them, see them, let them know that you are thinking of them. Even a quick text would be okay.

Saying goodbye to friendships is sometimes incredibly hard or, if you know it’s a toxic friendship, it can be incredibly easy. I’ve been in both of those situations. In one situation, it lead to me blowing up at my friend in a public place (I’m not proud of it) It was all about how her new (and first) romantic relationship seemed to be more important than our 15 year friendship.

That happens to be one of my biggest pet peeves. When a relationship becomes number 1 in your life and you no longer have time/want to see your friends who were there before the significant other. I think it’s incredibly important to balance your friendships along with your romantic relationships. Friends are so, SO important and I think everyone needs to remember that.

Another couple times it was hard because I didn’t know what had happened. We just stopped talking and every time I’d try to reach out I’d either get an “I’m busy.” or “can’t talk right now” or even worse, no response at all. It was awful and it caused my self esteem to take a major hit. It made me wonder “What happened?” “Why am I not good enough” or other negative thoughts.

People think that self esteem can only take a major hit when you’re in high school, but that’s wrong. Your self esteem can take a hit whenever it wants to. Mine has taken many hits in my 20’s, and while it has not been fun, it’s left me with a better understanding of myself. I’m more confident in what I can and will put up with in regards to friendships. It’s helped me realize who is worth my time and who isn’t.

I’m a major control freak so the fact that I cannot control how others think of me or treat me, is hard. However, I can make it known that I am a person, worthy of respect, honesty and kindness. I can make it known that I will not allow myself to be treated badly. I will not try to force a reconciliation with someone I no longer care for. I will not spend time with anyone who doesn’t appreciate me and what I bring to the table.

Currently, my two closest friends are my boyfriend (who I’ve known since we were kids) and my friend who lives in Puerto Rico and has been a wonderful friend to me despite the distance. Would I like to have more friends? Of course I would, but I’m not gonna force it. Society says that if a woman doesn’t have several close friends, there’s a problem and it’s a red flag for anyone wanting to date her. Well I call bullshit on that.

Friendships are important. Friendships are sacred and friendships can bring more ups and downs than an amusement park roller coaster.

So, do you find it easy or hard to make friends?

Review: Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Book Title: Pointe
Author: Brandy Colbert
Published Date: April 10th, 2014
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Theo is better now.

She’s eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.

Donovan isn’t talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn’t do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she’s been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.

Disclaimer: This book was a personal purchase.



Holy catfish, this book was far more complex than I ever gave it credit for. It’s not “just” a ballet book with kidnapping and anorexia subplots. It involves friendships, boys, choices and, even a more dark subject matter, rape and I think realizing that was important. There was definitely more than met the eye for this book. It tackled a ton of tough subjects and it was done well, really well. When you first start reading this book, you think it’s going to head in one direction, but it doesn’t and that really threw me off for a little while.

Theo didn’t always make the best decisions, but that’s what I loved about her. She was real, she was human and she was dealing with more issues than I had ever dealt with in my life. She loved and was devoted to ballet, something that never wavered throughout the book. She was loyal to her friends Sara-Kate and Philip. She had supportive and loving parents who she had put through the wringer. And there’s Hosea, he’s spoken for, but Theo cannot help but be drawn to him. 

And then, there was Donovan. Her best friend who she hadn’t seen in 4 years. In those four years there had been leads, but all had been false. Until the day, he returns. It’s an ordinary day, a day much like the previous days. Except Donovan is back. 

Theo is desperate to see him, to talk to him, but he’s not talking, his mother is honoring his request to keep a low profile. So Theo has no choice but to wait.

Waiting is hard for Theo. She likes being in control but she cannot control this situation. She cannot control anything about Donovan’s return and the legal case that will follow it. Because there will be a legal case. The person who took Donovan will be put on trial. Worst of all, Theo must testify about the last time she saw Donovan before he disappeared. Secrets threaten to come to the surface, but Theo knows that she can’t keep quiet anymore. She knows that she must spill secrets that she’s kept for four years. 

The feels were definitely there in abundance. I cried a lot in the beginning of the book and I cried a lot at the end of the book, so major kudos to Colbert for giving her readers those all important feels. This book didn’t read like it was penned by a debut author. It read much more like Colbert was a seasoned author. It was well written and beautifully written. 

I think this book was incredibly important for reasons that you’ll find out as you read the book. It touches on important topics and it does it with honesty. As I laid awake in bed after finishing it, I felt my feelings for this book only soar higher. I want to be able to give this book a full five stars, but I wanted to see Donovan more in the book. He was the one I wanted to know more about. 

Yet I understood why he wasn’t in the book that much and my favorite part between Donovan and Theo was at the end. It was beautiful, heartfelt and so damn perfect. 4.5 stars to this extremely important and beautifully written book. I definitely would recommend it to fans of contemporary YA and I will definitely read anything this woman writes.

Review: The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi

Book Title: The Summer I Wasn’t Me
Author: Jessica Verdi
Release Date: April 1st, 2014
Publisher: SourceBooks Fire
Genre: YA/LGBT
Book Link: Goodreads
Pre-Order Links: AmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Lexi has a secret…
Ever since her mom found out she was in love with a girl, seventeen-year-old Lexi’s afraid that what’s left of her family is going to fall apart for good. 

You are on the road to truth. Help is on the way.

The road signs leading to New Horizons summer camp promise a new life for Lexi—she swears she can change. She can learn to like boys. But denying her feelings is harder than she thinks. And when she falls heads over heels for one of her fellow campers, Lexi will have to risk her mother’s approval for the one person who might love her no matter what.

Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from SourceBooks Fire via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Wow, with this book being Jessica Verdi’s second book ever and second book that I have really enjoyed of hers, she has earned herself a spot on my auto-buy list. I’ll read anything this woman writes. She’s that awesome. She doesn’t shy away from the more difficult topics which I applaud her for. She goes for it 100%

I wasn’t sure if I’d get this but I decided to request it anyway and boy am I glad I did. I read it in one night and even after a decent night of sleep, I still don’t know how I am going to review this book, but I’ll give it a shot.

When we first meet Lexi she is being driven up to New Horizons by her mother. New Horizons  is a de-gayification place. Yup, totally cringe-worthy already. Seriously not cool at all but I know these things exist and that super conservative families place a lot of value in this type of thing.

You’d expect Lexi to be defiant and refuse to go along with this. But she’s resigned to her fate for the next 8 weeks. She’s doing it for her mom. She desperately wants her mom back. Her mom hasn’t been the same since Lexi’s father died and things only got worse when she found out that Lexi was in love with another girl. Yet ever since she agreed to come to New Horizons, her mom has perked up and she’s more like the mom that Lexi remembers.

Within hours of being there, Lexi learns that she will be required to wear a uniform complete with a cross necklace so that “Jesus will be with you on your journey” As an atheist, this line made me cringe big time but then I had to remember that this camp was a highly religious camp. She meets campers, David, Matthew, Carolyn as well as others

The director or leader or whatever you want to call him, Mr. Martin is kind & understanding. He has been where Lexi was and he claims that SSA or Same Sex Attraction was cured by him choosing to shut it down and recommitting to God. So Lexi looks up to him. There is also Kaylee and Brianna, both who were campers a decade ago and Lexi wants so desperately to be like them.

Yet as the days go on, they are forced to participate in an activity called Father Wounds. This is where Mr. Martin attempts to find a reason for the sickness that he calls being gay. At this point, I had to put the book down and walk away for a bit. I was SO flipping ANGRY. For Lexi, he says she’s gay because her mother worked out of the home and her father was more her friend than a father. So her gender roles were all messed up. 

Seriously? I swear he’d have a field day with me. My mom worked and I was cared for by my grandma and uncle and my father was nowhere to be found. Mr. Martin was an absolute lunatic.We don’t realize exactly how much of a lunatic he is until much later in the book. This book doesn’t shy away from some of the most extreme lengths that these places go to in order to “pray away the gay”

Lexi becomes really close to Matthew. Matthew clearly does not believe that this will work and the counselors and Mr. Martin have a field day with him. He’s been with the same guy for a long time and his feelings for the boyfriend don’t shift one iota.I won’t hand out any spoilers but just know that Matthew is funny and sweet and awesome and he is put through the wringer.

Oh Carolyn, I really liked how she and Lexi became friends and how they bonded over The Great Gatsby. Totally made me want to reread that book.How they would leave little notes for each other was absolutely adorable. So darn CUTE. Their first kiss was sweet and I absolutely loved it. Unlike the other teenagers, Carolyn was the one who wanted to come to New Horizons and de-gayify herself.

Watching Lexi go through the summer was awesome. She totally changed her opinion on this whole thing. She began to realize that it was a total crock and that being gay is okay and nothing to be ashamed of. She wasn’t ready to fight for Zoe, but near the end of this book, she realizes that she wants to fight for Carolyn. That is, if Carolyn will allow her to.

This book was so awesome and heartbreaking and full of hope. The only issue I had was with the ending. I wanted more resolution to a few things and was bummed that we didn’t get that I hate being vague but it involves some major spoilers so I will not say anything about why I wanted more resolution and for what. However the book itself was awesome and well worth the 4.5 stars I am going to give it. I definitely plan on ordering a hard copy for myself.

Review: Sia by Josh Grayson

Book Title: Sia
Author: Josh Grayson
Publish Date: November 20th, 2013
Published By: Josh Grayson
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Romace
Book Link: Goodreads
Pre-Order Links: 

Synopsis from Goodreads:
When seventeen-year-old Sia wakes up on a park bench, she has no idea who or where she is. Yet after a week of being homeless, she’s reunited with her family. At school, she’s powerful and popular. At home, she’s wealthy beyond her dreams. But she quickly realizes her perfect life is a lie. Her family is falling apart and her friends are snobby, cruel and plastic. Worse yet, she discovers she was the cruelest one. Mortified by her past, she embarks on a journey of redemption and falls for Kyle, the “geek” she once tormented. Yet all the time she wonders if, when her memories return, she’ll become the bully she was before…and if she’ll lose Kyle.

Disclaimer: I received this e-galley from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

I was thrilled when Netgalley approved me for this title. The premise looked awesome and I was hoping that the premise would match the book in awesome-ness. It totally did. This book was about reinventing yourself. One might also say that it involved learning to find yourself all over again. Sia’s memory loss allowed her to not only change herself for the better,but it also allowed her to surround herself with… I don’t want to say better people, but different people.

Carol was a huge part of that. She took care of Sia while Sia was homeless and living on the streets for that one week. It was Carol who showed Sia the meaning of kindness. Something the old Sia didn’t understand.I loved Carol. She was everything that Sia needed that week and she continued to exude kindness to Sia even after Sia returned home to her family. Carol was the epitome of being grateful for what she had, while still working hard to better herself. That, I believe was Sia’s inspiration. 

Watching Sia change from the fashion obsessed, cruel high schooler that she used to be to the kindhearted, gentle and generous person she became was amazing. I know her friends, particularly Amber had a rough time of it, but seeing Sia not cave when Amber started up with her old tricks again was awesome. Sia no longer cared about fashion, boys and popularity. She cared about being a good person who cared about others.

This book could have easily been titled redemption as Sia was redeemed. Her amnesia allowed her to become a different person. She got a chance to change and she happily took that chance. Something not everyone would have been brave enough to do.

Kyle was a total sweetheart and he was a much better boyfriend than Sia’s previous boyfriend Duke, They were polar opposites which I guess made sense given Sia’s development throughout the book.

I have to give this book 4 stars. It was a great read but I really felt like the last few chapters were rushed and I really didn’t like that. I didn’t understand why they were rushed and I feel like it would have been a better read if the last few chapters were just a bit longer.